EBay Turns Marketing Muscle to Small Business

Seeing a huge untapped base of small-business users, eBay has begun an integrated marketing campaign to promote the business products and services available through its site.

More than 20 million registered eBay users in the United States work for small businesses, and 11 million of them have purchase authority or purchase influence at their companies, said Jay Fiore, eBay senior manager of business marketing.

“The challenge for us is that most of these folks are used to coming to eBay for consumer or personal items, but it hasn't occurred to them that they could be coming to eBay not just for consumer electronics or collectibles but for computers for their business or even industrial equipment,” he said.

The campaign includes e-mail marketing, ads in small-business magazines, public relations, radio and online promotions.

EBay may not appear in research as a top small-business brand, Fiore said, “but small-business owners can buy a piece of construction equipment or metalworking equipment on eBay, for example, and save thousands of dollars on a single purchase. That has a huge impact on that small-business person's company than any other company that I can think of when you think about the value that's delivered.”

The campaign promotes small businesses buying on the main eBay site as well as through www.ebaybusiness.com, which launched in January 2003. It also includes the “Dream Big. Save Big.” effort that began Feb. 19 and runs through April 15.

The centerpiece of “Dream Big” is a contest to win a $50,000 business-shopping spree in the form of eBay Anything Points, an eBay currency that can be spent on virtually anything on eBay. To participate, individuals simply answer the question, “If I won $50,000, what would I buy on eBay to help my small business, and how would it make my business dreams come true?”

EBay members also will be able to access online small-business workshops, articles and tips, plus discussion groups.

EBay is promoting “Dream Big” during March and April in the New York, Detroit and Chicago editions of Crain's Business as well as in Entrepreneur magazine, Fortune Small Business magazine, Inc. magazine, Pitney Bowes' Priority Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and 17 markets of the City Business Journals Network. EBay also ran ads in 25 publications targeted to industries such as restaurants and metalworking.

E-mails went last week to 11 million registered buyers on eBay and to 1.5 million registered sellers.

EBay also is targeting prospects via e-mail. Fiore said that eBay usually does little e-mail prospecting, especially in the business arena, “because it's relatively expensive to do targeted e-mail to business buyers.”

But through its print advertising for the campaign, “we have negotiated some additional e-mail exposure for us with those magazines,” he said. For example, 800,000 e-mails were sent to subscribers of Priority Magazine, Entrepreneur and Crain's publications.

EBay will track visits through www.ebaybusiness.com, including “page views, what gets clicked on the page and, of course, registration for the promotion,” Fiore said.

In addition, post offices in eBay's top 10 U.S. markets are displaying posters promoting the contest.

EBay worked with Slack/Barshinger and Partners, Chicago; Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, San Francisco; and Zipatoni, Chicago.

EBay also said last week that it is adding new services that address issues small businesses often face, including improving cash flow, hiring and shipping.

These include equipment leasing and financing provided by Direct Capital, employment services through Monster.com and greater integrated shipping solutions through the U.S. Postal Service. For example, eBay shippers can print and pay for Express Mail and Priority Mail labels with postage using their PayPal account or credit card.

Reportedly, the company also is hammering out a deal with a major partner to provide small-business credit lines.

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